Thursday, April 12, 2007

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut. Long Live His Chalk.

Kurt Vonnegut died last night. The image to your left is all that's posted on his website right now. Clever.

It's been many years since I picked up a Vonnegut novel but he was, back in high school, the first author I got really obsessed with. I realize now I probably didn't really understand many of the allegories he was trying to put forth and maybe I should go back and read them again, although I've now got four more Philip Roth books in the queue ever since I very, very belatedly discovered him last year through "Everyman." While many will cite "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle" as the Vonnegut classics, for some reason the apocalyptic evolutionary novel "Galapagos" has stuck with me most.

When I saw the Vonnegut news, I instantly remembered a time when the author came to my school, Northwestern University. A reporter for the Daily Northwestern, where I spent most of my college life, wrote a story about the appearance in which he quoted a student who claimed he had grabbed the chalk Vonnegut had used in his presentation. That set off a ping-pong battle on our letters page from other students claiming that, no, they had gotten the chalk. It was a humorous and strangely appropriate "controversy."

I Googled "Kurt Vonnegut chalk Northwestern" and, lo and behold, I'm not the only one who remembers the chalk incident. The writer of the story, Kevin F. Sherry, blogged about it last night. It's a terrific, quite personal remembrance of an amazing writer and you can go check it out here.